Elderly care: What is HR’s responsibility?

Workers who look after aging family members have less sleep and less time to focus on personal goals

Elderly care: What is HR’s responsibility?

Family-friendly benefits across Canadian workplaces often focus on the welfare of working mothers and fathers and their children. But what about workers who care for elderly family members?

That’s a question organizational behavioural expert Michael Halinski explored in his study of elderly caregiving and its impact on employees who take on the additional responsibility.

Halinski, an assistant professor at Ryerson University, compared the circumstances of employees who looked after elderly family members – on top of their childcare duties – with the situation of employees who cared only for aging loved ones.

Workers who had only elderly family members to care for reported feeling more overwhelmed than their counterparts who had a combination of elderly and childcare duties.

READ MORE: More women leave work to care for aging loved ones

Those who were responsible for elderly loved ones purportedly had fewer hours of sleep and fewer opportunities to accomplish personal goals than caregivers who were forced to juggle more than one set of responsibilities.

Halinski said he was expecting the situation to be more challenging for Canadians in the so-called ‘sandwich generation’ who care for young children as well as elders.

The findings prove how family-focused benefits should also factor in the experiences of working Canadians who might not have children but who still feel exhausted from other family care duties.

Halinski recommended giving workers the leeway to be with aging parents who need them, especially during medical emergencies, instead of punishing them for missing work.

“People have been forgetting about people who don’t have kids, or any family responsibility per se. They’ve been taken out of the work-life balance conversation and there’s been a little pushback from them saying, ‘Employers should be looking at me as well,” Halinski said.

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